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News | April 12, 2018

Sun Power

By Connie Braesch 64,880 solar panels produce 28-megawatts of power

Solar panels stretch end to end spanning as far as the eye can see, absorbing sunlight and softly humming as they generate power on the 180-acre solar energy facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.


Defense Logistics Agency Energy, VAFB leaders along with other partners and guests gathered to dedicate the new energy facility April 10.


“We understand the importance of energy and the need for reliable and resilient power on our military installations,” said Frank Rechner, DLA Energy deputy director of Supplier Operations during the ceremony. “As of Jan. 8, this direct-current solar array became fully operational and producing electricity. This is the largest Air Force solar project in which all the energy is consumed by the base.”


DLA Energy Installation Energy is responsible for awarding the 25-year contract for the new 28-megawatt solar photovoltaic system that spans roughly 163 football playing fields and generates enough electricity to meet approximately 35 percent of the base’s energy needs.


The joint effort between DLA Energy, VAFB 30th Space Wing, SunPower Corp. and Air Force Civil Engineer Center is expected to provide 54,500 megawatt hours of energy annually – equivalent to offsetting carbon dioxide emissions from 8,600 cars for one year according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


“A veteran in the solar industry with more than 30 years in business, we were honored to serve as the solar advisor, designer and installer on this project,” said David McIlhenny, SunPower Vice President for Project Finance. “The Vandenberg Air Force Base project features our Oasis power plant technology, a fully integrated, modular solar power blocksystem engineered to optimize land use, and with a long-term contract for below-retail cost of power, we’re generating savings that can be redirected to other priorities on post over the long term.”


The solar energy production facility is tied directly into the base's power grid and is behind the meter so all solar energy generated is consumed on site. Vandenberg AFB will purchase the electricity generated under a 25-year renewable energy supply agreement.


Built on a former base housing site, the vacant land was a prime opportunity to implement a life cycle cost-effective renewable energy project on-site that builds energy security and resiliency of the military base while at the same time saving taxpayer money. 


“Being part of this multi-faceted project team supporting Vandenberg has been a significant step forward in executing other similar project efforts across the Department of Defense,” Rechner said. “Together, as a team, we look forward to the supply and delivery of reliable and resilient solar power to Vandenberg Air Force Base for the next 25 years.”


DLA Energy Installation Energy offers acquisition support for facility energy requirements such as coal, natural gas, electricity, renewable energy credit purchases, long-term renewable energy project development and other energy savings performance initiatives. It also coordinates for the DoD’s participation in electricity demand response programs.